Monash Visit 2013

I’m finally tying up all the loose ends around here from my trip to Australia in July. After my previous post on the Bodywork exhibition, my last mission is to tell you all about my tour through the newly relocated Monash jewellery workshops. I promised to fill y’all in at the end of this post about the Seams Seems Symposium in early October so apologies for you who’ve been waiting with bated breath, I hope you can breathe normally now!

First up, if the pictures of the jewellery studio below are not quite as convincing as they could be, as far as I am aware (and the photos were taken in July mind you) the jewellery/metals program at Monash has not been shut down. There have been large changes to it, and in part those are due to the change in the way the Department of Fine Art is now administering its units, as it is currently undergoing significant changes to the way courses are offered and delivered. It was rumoured that the course was to close at the end of Marian Hosking’s tenure, but as this coincided with the beginning of these changes it’s hard to say that the lack of first-year intake is from either the process of shutting or the process of changing the course offerings. The current head is supportive of these arts/crafts, as the previously-threatened glass studios also remain and course offerings are available for both streams in 2014.

Marian Hosking’s role as studio coordinator of metals and jewellery has been taken over by Manon van Kouswijk, and Vito Bila is still the jewellery/metals technician. I believe that additional teaching will be done by Roseanne Bartley, effectively she’ll be taking the role that Simon Cottrell vacated when he moved to Canberra.

As you may or may not be able to tell, the studio is now located in the fine arts building, right next to the glass studios and across from the sculpture studio, and overlooking some of the independent studios spaces allocated to postgraduate fine arts candidates. It also overlooks Caulfield Race Track, so there are no buildings in the way to stop quite generous views that purportedly can reach Port Philip Bay. Nice…

As I understand it, the fine arts stream has changed all round, with course offerings being more open and generalised to begin with, giving students the opportunity to choose their areas of concentration as they progress along the timeline of their fine arts degree. Vito Bila described it to us on his tour as a really exciting, because it is integrating jewellery into arts more holistically, and with that comes the potential to create a really dynamic arts-focused jewellery course, something that he believes is unique, with nothing quite like it in the whole country. I tend to agree with him, because I think that if jewellery wants to be part of the arts conversation then the training is one obvious segment that should reflect that. I’m also fan of Manon van Kouswijk’s work (I wrote about her and Ben Lignel in my MFA thesis) and I think the kind of broad thinking that she applies to her jewellery practice will be indicative of what she will bring to the course and the arts department, which has the potential to be of great benefit not just to her students – those in jewellery and those not – but obviously to the department as a whole.

The system of having a generic first year and signing up for individual courses can be seen as adopting a more American style, but having said that, it is a system that was in place in my time at Curtin University in Perth. I studied a common first year with all of architecture and interior architecture, (before we were split into separate studios in 2nd year.) A similar open policy was available in the fine arts, where I opted not to do jewellery as an undergrad out of a fear of having to mix it with the general arts population before I could concentrate solely on jewellery in 2nd and 3rd years, (albeit that my reticence was combined with a stronger desire to actually study architecture.) I now realise that the option of having a generic first year is an amazing resource, and if I had bothered to consult anybody about my fear-based-decision I might have seen the wisdom in the mixed programme earlier. Not a day goes by that I don’t use my interior architecture training, and if I had some printmaking or glass or even painting skills behind me I’m guessing I could argue the same for those. That and I know plenty of people who changed major mid-stream, as they came to the realisation that what they had signed up for was not really what they were passionate about.

I realise that not all students have that issue nor want a broad base, they might want to come in and get straight down to their career-course on day one of studies, and I don’t blame them. Getting mastery of any skill is going to take all the time you can give it. But for those of us who walked into university a little more reticent that they had made the right decision, a few more options – not to mention a chance to play with a myriad of creative techniques and technologies – is a good thing.

OK, that has ended up a bit ranty, so I’ll go away now, and you can look at the pictures. I’m not going to explain them much, in part because as Vito mentioned the transition from the deign building to the arts one was still taking place, so they were missing walls and doors and venting and the like. I imagine that more changes have been made by now, but here’s what was there in July.


Bodywork: now in Port Macquarie

It’s taken me a while, but I’m finally back around to explaining the Bodywork exhibition, or to give it its proper title, Bodywork: Australian Jewellery 1972-2012. In early October I mentioned that Dr Robert Bell, AM: Senior Curator Decorative Arts and Design, National Gallery of Australia spoke at the Seams Seems symposium on:

the Bodywork exhibition. This exhibition of Australian jewellery owned by the NGA will be travelling to ten regional galleries from 2013 to 2015. The exhibition began at the Moree Plains Gallery on the 7th of September, 2013

From the description on the National Gallery of Australia website:

This exhibition includes the work of 42 Australian jewellers exploring jewellery from a number of viewpoints within six broad themes: Romanticism, Interpreting the Vernacular, Encapsulating Nature, Technics, Social Message and Sculpture for the Body. All of the works are from the collection of the National Gallery of Australia.

The exhibiting artists are too numerous to list (okay, I grew some spine, here we go…) :

Robert Baines
Julie Blyfield
Bethamy Linton
Sally Marsland
Phill Mason
Elizabeth Olah
Barbara Rees

Interpreting the Vernacular
Robyn Backen
Melissa Cameron
Elèna Gee
Ragnar Hansen
Helge Larsen + Darani Lewers
Christel van der Laan
Wolf Wennrich

Encapsulating Nature
Helen Britton
Marian Hosking
Rosalie Loo
Carlier Makigawa
Ray Norman
Gillian Rainer
Margaret West

Social Message
Pierre Cavalan
Susan Cohn
Felicity Peters
Lyn Tune

Jan Arundell + Ted Arundell
Frank Bauer
Simon Cottrell
Mark Edgoose
Rex Keogh
Joannes Kuhnen
Andrew Last
Blanche Tilden
David Walker

Sculpture for the Body
Helen Aitken-Kuhnen
Robert Foster
Leslie Matthews
Mascha Moje
Brenda Ridgewell
Dore Stockhausen

The full list of venues and dates are available on the NGA Bodywork site, but it went on show yesterday at the Glasshouse Gallery in Port Macquarie, NSW and will be there until the 2nd of February 2014, after which it opens at Port Pirie Regional Art Gallery in South Australia from February to May of 2014.

Dr Bell specifically mentioned that the exhibition was not travelling to capital cities – except for an outing in Canberra towards the end of the tour (I covered this as well in that post) so to catch it you’re going to have to get out into the regional centres. Or go through Canberra at the end of the ski season in 2015!

Deadlines November 2013

Deadline it up, y’all – please feel free to drop me a line if you’ve seen any that aren’t listed. As usual, it’s my ad-hoc list of upcoming opportunities to exhibit, learn, earn or perhaps even teach, from wherever I see ‘em.

Looking for love in all the wrong places? Lamenting that there’s fewer fine deadlines for you fine folk in The Britain? Might I suggest you sign up to the benchpeg newsletter, as they do what I do here, except, you know, professionally!

***SuperNewFreshoffthePress additions***

Opportunities with deadlines

Sup Brooch. Already boasting the best title for an exhibition this year, this is an online/catalogue exhibition of brooches for bros, co-curated by my buddy from the Pittsburgh massive, Sharon Massey. Entries due 22 November 2013.

Ritual. A single sheet book show. No, not jewels as such, but I’m throwing a challenge out to y’all – I wanna see jewellers take over the show with some beautiful images, drawings and such. I’m gonna, whydoncha join me? Deadline November 30th 2013.

**** Reliquary/Redux. Be exhibited during the 2014 ECU Metals Symposium in January. Entries close December 1st 2013.

**** Alessi in Love. Complicated back-story, check out the website. But you could get manufactured by Alessi?! Deadline Dec 3rd, 2013.

**** CALL FOR ENTRIES: Material Matters (Making Connections) Exhibition. Another opportunity to get your wok on display (another? Why yes! See two above) during the 2014 ECU Metals Symposium in January. Entries close December 8th 2013.

REFINED VIII: Maker’s Choice. REFINED is a biennial exhibition of jewelry and metalwork hosted by the Art Metals program in the School of Art at Stephen F. Austin State University. I’ve been in this one, it’s a good show! Deadline 9th December 2013.

**** Cove Park Residencies – in the UK and open to internationals! Applications (for partially funded positions) close on the 16th of December, 2013.

RAGS wearable art show – Get your work into a juried art show whose proceeds go to help those in need. Donated work is for sale and donors receive a healthy commission and the side bonus, a multitude of good karma! From their site:

“The artists who display and sell their work at RAGS agree to give 33 percent of their sales in the marketplace and 40 percent of their sales in the gallery to RAGS. All of those proceeds go directly to the YWCA Pierce County. The RAGS donation – $97,000 in 2011 – is earmarked to fund YWCA programs that specifically address domestic violence in our community.”

Deadline 13th December 2013.

Matchbox Microcosms. Make curios? Ever wanted to be shown in a van that’s going to travel around the UK, showing off your work against its other, curiouser, displays. Wanna be shown to school groups, amongst others? Now’s your chance! Open to all nationalities, not just you of the British persuasion (Yup, I checked). Deadline Dec 31, 2013.

ONoff: An exhibition of makers that work ON and OFF the body. Juried by Susie Ganch. Deadline for submissions: January 19th, 2014.

**** Functional Art: The Wine Country Home exhibition open for US residents at Larson Gallery, Yakima, Washington. Submissions: January 25, 2014 (MST)

**** LaGrange National XXVIII. Exhibition opportunity for US residents. Deadline Feb 11th, 2013.

**** Origomu: Master and Protégé Contest. Pair up with a demale someone who does not enjoy the same privileges as you, and submit your entries by Feb 15th 2013 to win cash prizes for you and your protégé.

TOP Jewels – National Jewelry Design Exhibition, “A showcase featuring the very best artists working in the medium of jewelry design to educate the public about their craft.” USA only exhibition opportunity, entries through CaFE. Deadline April 11th 2014.

New Traditional Jewellery 2014. As a part of the SIERAAD arts fair in Amsterdam, this competition has taken ‘ CONFRONTATIONS’ as the 2014 theme. Registration due 1st June 2014.

Undated Opportunities

Contemporary Metal in Perth have updated their class timetable and there is some great stuff on offer. Check it!

Dallas County Community College District – Visiting Artist for our Art Metals Summer Workshop in Summer 2014.

Studio 20/17 seeks guest curators. How often does a well established gallery invite people to play inside their walls? Get amongst it!

Patina Gallery seeks Master International Artists. Make ‘Soul-Stirring’ works? Wanna be one of 3 artists added to their stable? No deadline, but post went up Jan 23rd, so perhaps sooner rather than later?

Tributaries: Call for entries. The Metal Museum, in Memphis, has an ongoing call for exhibitions from emerging and mid-career artists. First deadline Feb 2013, for upcoming shows, and they keep applications on file for 2 years.

The Imperial Centre for the Arts + Sciences in North Carolina have a permanent exhibition call out, with shows booked 2-3 years in advance.

Lord Coconut in Melbourne has outdone himself by publishing this listing of opportunities for artists in his gallery. As ever, this is to exhibit jewellery for men. Thanks to Karen at Melbourne Jeweller for the heads up.

**** And finally ****

More huge props to Melbourne Jeweller for finding this Art Prize Website for Aussie artists and publishing it here with her monthly Calendar posts. It’s a good ‘un. Thanks Karen!

and speaking of enamel, as I was earlier this week…

I’ve made a steel sandwich.

I have finally applied some of my collected rust to some white enamel. The substrate is from a steel can (Ok, you got me, it was a can that held a whiskey bottle…) that I sandblasted, so the metal is not perfectly flat.

Rust on enamel on steel. Test sample on steel can, Melissa Cameron, 2013.
Rust on enamel on steel. Test sample on steel can, Melissa Cameron, 2013.

As you can see there are two sets of markings visible on the piece that are a result of the process. There is the maroon-brown tiny specs that have good coverage and then there are some black larger pieces, which I think are actually interference. The way I collected the rust was to rub some quite fine-mesh steel wool over a rusted piece of steel, capturing it in the little bag (yup, that one you can see in the image, behind the sample and my lovely tweezers. I’ve been practicing ‘signing’ my works, so you can see also on them – to the right hand side – that I’ve labelled my tweezers and added the date. BTW, I did not make my tweezers! I find 3’s hard to engrave, so I had to include the date in my practice… But I digress…) I have a feeling that the black marks also on the surface are actually smallish sections of burned steel wool. On the piece these black particles have more texture than the red coloured section of the ‘real’ rust, which adds fuel to my idea that they’re larger steel particles, which brought with them more substance than the actual rust dust.

When I applied the rust dust it was really fine and powdery, so it settled in clumps on the surface of the enamel. Worried that I wasn’t getting much coverage (and I would lose that which was only sitting on the surface and not actually in the enamel) I then stirred it into the still-wet enamel fairly thoroughly. I remember thinking at the time that I should have stopped combining earlier, as there were some nice track marks of clean enamel through the rust surface earlier in the process, which got lost as I kept combining the two. Still, that’s something to work on for next time.

Also, having had a go at an old-fashioned dip-pen on enamel thanks to Nancy Bonnema at my recent enamel class, I’m now wondering if the super-fine rust dust would mix into a pigment to be drawn with easily.

I’ve added this experiment to the usual place for enamel news, the Enamel on Steel section of this blog.

Categorized as Jewellery


Melissa Cameron, Space, 2013. Vitreous enamel, stainless steel, 925 silver, Ballotini® spheres.
Melissa Cameron, Space, 2013. Vitreous enamel, stainless steel, 925 silver, Ballotini® spheres.

This piece, another in the series of La Geometrie works, was recently completed for a sister who has started working behind the camera for a TV production company. Everything she wears to work has to be black, so I figured a matte black brooch was in order. The outside section (the piece with all the holes through) is sugar fired, so as to not reflect light, while the inner panels have been rubbed back with diamond abrasive pads to reveal drawings in glass beads (themselves on white enamel) under their surface, and again, to make their surfaces non-reflective. The brooch pin extends along the full length of the back, so it can be worn ‘portrait’ or ‘landscape’.

The faint drawings represent the x, y and z axes of 3D space – from what we now call the Cartesian Coordinate system, after Rene Descartes, the progenitor. I guess you could call my La Geometrie series a tribute to him and his works.

String theory

01 String

Last week I had 10 different types of string lined up for a piece I’m working on. It doesn’t need 10 types of string, but I didn’t feel that the finished work I was trying create resonated with any one of them. I had already discounted some satiny cord, the usual pearl-silk that you can get at most jewellery suppliers as well as the nylon thread that is often used on beaded (especially when used in combination with jade beads) bookmarks and key chains. They weren’t quite old or rustic enough.

In case you’re not Rain Man and don’t want to count them – there’s 19 different colours of cords, threads and strings up in that image, of eleven different types. There’s embroidery thread, two types of kitchen string and two more of what appears to be jute string (one is for sure), a couple of leather ones, several cottons in varying colours, some linen and my usual weapon of choice, a length of stainless steel cable.

Despite my misgivings, I loaded myself with strings and cords from my different stashes around the house, and headed to the basement. Being unsure of which to use by this point in the process is a bit unusual, because usually when I’m visualising something and the material for the body of the work has been decided, I can see the finished object in my head, including vague ideas about adjoining materiality. If not, and I actually have to go find the last ingredients, when I find a part that I think will complete the work – say when I’m looking at thread in a shop – I can then see it working in my minds eye. In this case I hadn’t reached that point, but I figured that playing with the different types and colours against the actual object that I was working on would solve the problem for me. It wasn’t like I didn’t have plenty of options available.

Then as I sat with all the cords, strings and threads and the saw pierced parts of an ex-object I’m working with, I remembered that I had in an even more secret stash in the bottom drawer of my bench, that I had dived past earlier in the week in a hasty search for some neighbouring steel chain.

The centre bottom four threads in that photo are waxed linen – the ones in red, blue, green are joined by the burgundy one that runs along the bottom and finishes to the right. They’re little samples given to me by Lauren, who I stayed with in Pittsburgh earlier this year. After Lauren had kindly given me 4 little samples I had packed them into my bag of steel cable, a stash of my usual threading material, which I had taken over to Pittsburgh for use in the workshop I gave there. Upon returning home and having unloaded my bag of tools and materials, I had forgotten about the thread entirely. So rather than in my filing cabinet with all my other threads in the studio, they were stored with my steel cable, next to my steel chain, in that bottom drawer. And when I sat in my chair with all the other strings and threads I had bought and found around the office, kitchen and studio, I realised that what I was really needing was in the bottom of that drawer.

When Lauren showed me the thread back in March I thought it was nice, but I didn’t really have a place for it in my practice, especially given that my introduction to the material was somewhat alien to how I now plan to use it. Lauren uses it for the precise art of miniature basket making, in which she often uses a 1c coin – a penny – as the base of the basket. Her use of it shut down my thoughts of what I might do with it, and dictated how I thought the material would work best.

Since I reopened my package and played with the thread in a completely new context, it has been occupying so much of my brain space it’s been insane. Once I ordered it I was counting down the days til the delivery, obsessively checking the arrival time as if it were a mask running late for my Halloween costume (late delivery is one of many shipping misfortunes I encountered this week, along with deliveries landing at the wrong address entirely – it’s been a bad week with UPS here at the Embassy.) I was so grateful to Lauren that she insisted I take an image of her sample card, which I clearly remember thinking at the time was overkill for my level of interest. But now I know first-hand that she is absolutely right, the samples on the card do not match the images of the thread on the website.

Royalwood Waxed Irish Linen Sample Card pre 2013

This whole process has made me wonder at the nature of creativity. Was I waiting, rather impatiently, for my brain to re-make the connection to the linen thread? If that’s true, then I was never going to be completely happy with anything but the waxed linen. Or if not, if in fact if I had never seen that such a thing existed, would I still be foundering in the studio trying to find a replacement, perhaps braiding different fibres or even waxing my own thread (I’ve done that before in small sections; in fact one of the embroidery threads above has a 2cm section where I recently tried it,) or scouring more shops or the internet for yet another alternative. Lucky for me though, I had come across the perfect filament, and it was patiently waiting for me, snuggled up right next to a big stash of my old favourite, the stainless cable.

The scene with Laura has also haunted me this past weekend. How I had outwardly showed interest, but internally had already moved on from thinking that the thread could useful for me. How wrong was I. And how lucky was I to have had the opportunity to listen up regardless, to be given the chance to realise the import of her words much later.

It reminds me of the movie Wayne’s World (before you interject with “Objection, your honour. Irrelevant!” hear me out…) where Wayne and Garth meet up with Mr Big’s security – as played by Chris Farley. The scene closes with Wayne practically breaking character to placate the audience for the clumsiness of the exposition just witnessed. But thanks to a 30 second encounter with a single ‘fellow enthusiast’, the characters and the audience now know something that is of supreme significance for the progress of the story.

Perhaps it’s the same notion. Once I had ownership of such information, after a seemingly chance encounter with Lauren and her spools of waxed thread (a material with very specific properties – never before have I wanted a cord that would grip and kink so readily,) like Wayne and Garth, it was just a matter of time before I had reason to use it.

Somewhat coincidentally (as if I wasn’t already wondering about the nature of intuition versus perception…) I read this article “How Our Minds Mislead Us: The Marvels and Flaws of Our Intuition” by Maria Popova today, discussing a recently released book called Thinking, edited John Brockman. I totally believe that perception – knowledge that I already had – led me to re-finding the thread when I finally sat down to make with my gathered fibres. But where does the creative intuition – that I simultaneously knew that this thread was the ideal that had haunted me – fit in?

Orchestra, some thinking music, please.